Securing a greater role for innovation in the delivery of basic services
IPRDP develops and nurtures STI capabilities that support local service delivery
Developments in scientific knowledge, technology and innovation (STI) continue to fundamentally alter the way that services are produced and consumed. Such developments not only provide significant new opportunities for local government, but also introduce new challenges and difficulties to be managed.
Globally and nationally, scientific progress and new technologies are impacting on all of the core services and remain pressing challenges for most local governments. This includes providing clean drinking water, sanitation, electricity, shelter, waste removal and roads, as well as new areas of responsibility such as internet connectivity.
The need to develop and nurture STI capabilities that support local service delivery is often underappreciated and neglected. The current service delivery landscape includes too many examples of inappropriate technological systems, or good technological systems not implemented adequately.
Inappropriate technological solutions can have wide-ranging impacts. This includes a denial of basic services, frequent service interruptions and higher longterm costs for both the municipality and its citizens.
Local governments in rural areas are particularly vulnerable and face two mutually reinforcing challenges. Firstly, weak inherited STI capabilities that are difficult to strengthen for a variety of reasons. Secondly, a small pool of solutions specifically designed to respond to the context of difficult-to-reach rural communities.
Where solutions exist, they often do not find their way into practice, further reducing the incentive to enlarge the pool of available solutions.
Over the last few years, this reality is slowly changing at national and global levels, with greater commitment and support for innovations that enhance inclusive development.
Guided by this reality, the department of science and technology (DST) introduced the Innovation Partnership for Rural Development Programme (IPRDP) as a pilot in 2013. The pilot was facilitated by donor funding leveraged from the European Union in the form of general budget support.
Learning from previous experiences in supporting quality of life improvements through STI, the IPRDP included a deliberate focus on building innovation capabilities. Capability development complemented the core value-add, which remained the practical application and demonstration of new solutions at scale in partnership with local governments.
Over the past four years, the following technological systems were demonstrated at scale through the IPRDP by several universities and public research organisations in South Africa with varying levels of technology improvement and optimisation as well as learning:
ment offering municipalities an alternative, cost-effective technol- ogy. It’s a self-sustaining system that operates independently of electricity and expensive chemicals, and which could be effectively operated in spite of financial and capacity constraints;
hydropower, for rural electrification within the current regulatory and policy framework for electrification;
pour flush latrines as an alternative, significant step up from existing Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrines. They provide greater user satisfaction and more effective operation and maintenance;
and management of water service delivery incidents through the integration of an ICT-based Corrective Action Request and Reporting System into the operations of rural municipalities;
technologies as a viable alternative to provide clean drinking water at the household level; and
support the development of Water Safety Plans and Wastewater Risk Abatement Plans.
Complementing the demonstrations was a targeted programme to enhance STI capabilities. This included the introduction of a
Index as a self-assessment and learning tool. Developed by the Human Science Research Council in partnership with the DST, the index provides a way for local governments to self-assess their maturity with respect to the management of innovation. In this way, local governments will be in a position to identify interventions that help to mature innovation capabilities. Further efforts to support decision-making included the development of scientific decisionsupport tools that enable local governments to compare the scientific evidence and assessment of various sanitation solutions in order to identify the most appropriate sanitation solution in a given context.
Enhanced community understanding of the improvements and challenges that result from technology is crucial for the longterm sustainability of any solution introduced. An important complementary intervention of the IPRDP was the initiation of a community-based journalist intervention. Provided with training and other support, a passionate and committed group of 19 young journalists enhanced communication using a variety of mediums including radio and print. Effective communication was ensured by using the many languages that are spoken in South Africa.
The current IPRDP pilot has helped to create the systems, approaches and modalities that can accelerate the evaluation and eventual integration of new science and technology solutions into the service delivery landscape. Efforts are already underway to build on this capability, through further partnerships, so as to enhance the use of STI in meeting existing and new service delivery obligations.
Above: DST DDG: Socio-Economic Innovation Imraan Patel
Left: From left to right, John Goddard World Bank, Sizwe Nxasana, Chairman of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, (NSFAS), Dr Azar Jammine NACI Council member participated in a panel discussion during the launch event discussing the STI 2016 report. Photos: Supplied